FOR Nadeen Payne, there’s truth in the old adage absence makes the heart grow fonder.
It’s been nearly four years since the 188cm forward set foot on a SEABL basketball court.
But no one is excited to see the 24-year-old back in the league herself.
Payne will make her Bendigo Lady Braves debut in Friday night’s season opener against Diamond Valley Eagles in Greensborough.
The Townsville native, who has played in the Queensland Basketball League the last two winters, said she was entirely comfortable with her decision to remain in Bendigo, where she has spent the past two WNBL seasons with the Spirit, and hopefully help lead the Braves women to a national championship.
“I am really happy with my decision to stay and play SEABL in Bendigo,” said Payne, whose last stint in the SEABL was with Launceston Tornadoes in 2014.
“The basketball is way more competitive, so I think it was the best move for me.
“Being in one place will really aid my basketball and help me grow with the community.”
Payne, who represented Australia at last year’s FIBA 3x3 World Cup, is coming off a MVP award-winning season with the Spirit.
She averaged career-highs in points (12.19) and assists (2.05) and hauled in nearly four rebounds per game in her 10th season in the top-league.
Payne acknowledged there were high expectations surrounding the Braves, whose new roster acquisitions include her Spirit team-mates Gabe Richards, Ash Karaitiana and Kara Tessari.
Only Richards has played for the Braves women before, but not for many years.
Payne said the early signs were encouraging, with the team winning all three of practice matches against SEABL opponents, but conceded that would count for little if they could not back it up against the fledgling Eagles.
“We really want to come out and make a statement in our first game,” she said.
“They will be without a couple of players, but we really want to show what brand of basketball we play and really prove a point to the league that we are here to win a championship.”
BENDIGO LADY BRAVES ROSTER
Departing: Chloe Bibby, Chante Black, Jane Chalmers, Hayley Harrington, Ash Rininger, Carlie Smith, Alex Strawhorn.
Returning: Tahnee Cannan, Bianca Dufelmeier, Ahlise Hurst, Caitlin McLachlan, Maddi Sexton, Maddison Wild, Kelly Wilson.
Newcomers: Ashleigh Karaitiana, Nadeen Payne, Gabe Richards, Kara Tessari, Andrea Wilson.